Illinois Lottery stays online; 20 responses to Massachusetts iLottery request

illinois-massachusetts-online-lotteryThe Illinois Lottery says it will continue to sell tickets online, despite its legal authorization to conduct online sales having expired last month.

Illinois became the first US state lottery to offer online sales of draw tickets in 2012 after state pols approved a four-year pilot program. That program expired on March 25 and a budget squabble between the governor and state Democrats meant legislation that would have extended the program didn’t get done on time.

Last Friday, the Lottery issued a statement saying it “will continue to operate online.” Communications director Steve Rossi said the Lottery had conducted “a detailed review of the relevant policies, rules and laws” at the request of Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr., the sponsor of the pilot program extension bill, and that this review had concluded that “continued internet ticket sales are permissible by law.”

At present, only Illinois, Georgia and Michigan are offering some form of online lottery in the US. The Minnesota Lottery had blazed the trail for online scratch ticket sales, but angry Minnesota legislators shut down all online lottery activity last fall based on their belief that Lottery officials had exceeded their authority.

The three online states may soon be joined by Massachusetts, which announced in December that it was looking for proposals for an “iLottery system” that could incorporate everything from digital versions of existing lottery games to social gaming to daily fantasy sports options.

This week, the Massachusetts Lottery announced that it had received 20 responses to its request, twice the number Lottery exec director Michael Sweeney had expected. State treasurer Deborah Goldberg told the State House News Service that a careful review of the responses would help determine “what’s best in the long term for the Lottery.”

Among the 20 respondents were current Lottery partners Scientific Games, along with other lottery notables IGT, Camelot and Intralot. Also submitting a response was Canada’s Amaya Gaming, who last year pulled its StarsDraft daily fantasy sports product from all but four states, one of which was Massachusetts.

A number of lesser known fantasy sports operators – including Alphastreak, Sports Draft Daily, Flower City Gaming (Star Fantasy Leagues), Stratmish, Third Screen Sports (FanHalf) and Top 3 Fantasy Sports – also submitted responses. Fast Strike Games, a Boston-based fantasy operator, threw its hat into the ring, while Boston-based DraftKings did not (nor did rival FanDuel).

At present, Massachusetts law doesn’t permit its Lottery to conduct online business. But in January, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission delivered a white paper which suggested legislators craft a forward-looking omnibus online bill that would allow the possible introduction of any number of digital gaming services.